AT12MARTempted by a car with rakish good looks, but put off by the lack of space and expensive running costs of prestige coupes? Well, thanks to the trend of mainstream manufacturers putting out svelte coupes based on run-of-the-mill hatchbacks – started by the Volkswagen Scirocco – you can now get a car with the magic combo of head-turning aesthetics and everyday usability.

The Vauxhall Astra GTC is the latest such coupe to break cover. It may be based on the conventional Astra, but it has been given a thorough working over to distance it from the three-door hatch. It’s wider and sits lower, giving it a much more sporting stance. The rear styling has been tweaked to emphasise the wider body and the window line changed to highlight the sloping rear roofline. It’s a handsome car and certainly the best looking Astra yet.

It’s different under the skin too. It comes with the same range of engines as the hatch, but also has Vauxhall’s sophisticated ‘HiPer Strut’ front suspension, meaning it corners and changes direction in a way that belies its family workhorse heritage. Order with the optional FlexRide system, and the damping can be electronically controlled to suit your mood. In the standard setting, the suspension constantly adjusts to suit the road conditions. Pick Tour mode and both suspension and the weight of the steering are relaxed, resulting in a more comfortable, effortless drive. Sport mode firms everything up and increases throttle response for a more involving drive.

What it keeps from the Astra hatchback is its roomy, well-constructed interior with its intuitive dash layout and good driving position. Boot space also hasn’t suffered unduly with the change in shape.

If you can only have one car and want something that stands out from the rest of the family runabout fodder, and that appeals to the driver in you, look no further than the Astra GTC.

12-plate wish list

Feb 01: Hyundai i40 Tourer
Feb 02: Audi A4
Feb 03: Ford Focus
Feb 06: Citroen DS4
Feb 07: Volkswagen up!
Feb 08: Vauxhall Astra GTC
Feb 09: Audi A1 Sportback
Feb 10: Renault Scenic
Feb 13: Subaru XV
Feb 14: Renault Twingo (video)
Feb 15: MINI Coupe
Feb 16: Nissan LEAF
Feb 17: MINI Coupe (video)
Feb 20: Hyundai i30
Feb 21: Chevrolet Camaro
Feb 22: Porsche 911 (video)
Feb 23: Kia Picanto
Feb 24: BMW 1-Series
Feb 27: Honda Civic
Feb 28: Hyundai Veloster